In form Chelsea will be eyeing all three points when they host under-performing Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on Sunday (16:00 GMT, live on Sky Sports).
The Blues have moved into title contention following a string of strong results over the festive period and are third in the Premier League table, two points off leaders Arsenal with 46 points from 14 wins, four draws and three defeats.
This good run of form has coincided with the tightening of a defensive unit that had conceded at a rate of 1.13 goals per match over the first 16 matches of the season. With either Jon Obi Mikel or David Luiz deployed as a dedicated holder in midfield, Chelsea have conceded just one in their last five.
Strong defence was one of the hallmarks of Jose Mourinho’s (pictured) first, successful, spell in charge of the club and he could certainly point to recent results to justify the more conservative approach adopted by his side over the last month. A draw away to Arsenal and wins over Swansea, Liverpool, Southampton and Hull have seen them enter the title picture.
At the other end of the pitch, Eden Hazard has been Chelsea’s most impressive performer in recent times, scoring three and providing one assist in their last four matches. He appears to have found consistency under Mourinho’s command and is making telling contributions on a regular basis, leading the club in both goals and assists.
Mourinho would undoubtedly like to be getting more from his strikers, who have contributed just eight goals between them in the league so far this season. With Hazard in good form and Willian showing clear signs of adapting to the Premier League, he will be confident of keeping Chelsea’s good form going if they can maintain their defensive solidity.
Branislav Ivanovic (knee) and Frank Lampard (muscle) will definitely miss this match through injury, as will long-term absentee Marco Van Ginkel (knee). Ryan Bertrand is expected to return, while there could also be a place in the squad for new, £21 million midfielder Nemanja Matic, signed from Benfica on Wednesday.
Man Utd have endured a disappointing season and are seventh in the Premier League table with 37 points from 11 wins, four draws and six defeats, 11 points off the summit and five away from the top four.
David Moyes has been frustrated in his attempts to add to his squad during the January window, but did at least see his side end their three-match losing streak in all competitions with a 2-0 victory at home to Swansea City last weekend. After a slow first half, United sprung to life in the second and created enough to be considered just victors.
The star of the show was Adnan Januzaj, who impressed with his willingness to get on the ball and create. The 18-year old struck the crossbar with an early free-kick and was involved in the build up to both of United’s goals. Darren Fletcher, making only his second start of the season, was a strong presence in central midfield, while Danny Welbeck lead the line competently.
It was not a completely convincing performance and a more adventurous team may have taken better advantage of United’s slow start, but there were enough positives in the second half to give Moyes some hope for the remainder of the campaign even though various issues persist.
United are in the midst of an injury crisis, with Maroaune Fellaini (wrist) unavailable, Ashley Young (shoulder), Nani (hamstring), Robin Van Persie (thigh) and Wayne Rooney (groin) likely to miss out and Johnny Evans (back), Patrice Evra (knee), Phil Jones (knee) and Rio Ferdinand (knee) all facing late fitness tests. Fabio is suspended.
Chelsea v Man Utd Betting Tips Advice
These two sides have been evenly matched over their last 10 league meetings, with four wins apiece and two draws. United triumphed 3-2 in last season’s equivalent fixture, but both sides have changed manager in the interim. With this in mind, the 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in August is probably more instructive in terms of Sunday’s match.
Mourinho appears to have found a winning formula over the last month or so and will again look to build from a strong defensive base. His side will make themselves hard to beat and then seek to strike quickly and effectively on the break, a method of attack that United have struggled to deal with at times this season.
United were unable to break Chelsea down at Old Trafford earlier this season despite the presence of both Rooney and Van Persie. With both likely to be missing now, Chelsea have a good chance of shutting out their visitors and getting the goal(s) required to take victory.
- Back Chelsea to win to nil @ best odds of 21/10 with SkyBet.
- Hazard is in excellent form and has scored or provided an assist in six of his last eight league matches. With this in mind, we suggest splitting a stake between Eden Hazard to provide an assist at anytime @ 11/4 with Boylesports and Eden Hazard to score at anytime @ 5/2 with Betfred, Ladbrokes or SkyBet.